Candace Pert: Genius, Greed, and Madness in the World of Science (Hardcover)
The story of maverick scientist Candace Pert, whose groundbreaking research and book Molecules of Emotion introduced the world to the mind-body connection, opioid receptors, and peptide T, and her fight for recognition in a toxic healthcare system.
Candace Pert stood at the dawn of three revolutions: the women’s movement, integrative health, and psychopharmacology. A scientific prodigy, she was 30 years ahead of her time, preaching a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to healthcare and medicine long before yoga hit the mainstream and “wellness” took root in our vernacular. Her bestselling book Molecules of Emotion made her the mother of the Mind/Body Revolution, launching a paradigm shift in medicine. Deepak Chopra credits her with creating his career, and he said as much in his eulogy at her funeral.
Candace began her career as an unbridled maverick. In 1972, as a 26-year-old graduate student at Johns Hopkins, she discovered the opiate receptor, revolutionizing her field and enabling pharmacologists to design new classifications of drugs from Prozac to Viagra to Percocet and OxyContin. The tragic irony of her breakthrough, touted as the first step to end heroin addiction, is that it helped spawn a virulent epidemic of drug dependence. Facing the largest public health crisis of the 21st century, Candace was incensed that the Hippocratic oath—“first, do no harm”—would succumb to greed, and as witness to this abuse of power, she was one of few scientists courageous enough to protest.
Later, as Chief of Brain Biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health, Candace created Peptide T, the non-toxic treatment for HIV featured in Dallas BuyersClub. As the AIDS pandemic raged, triggering panic across Reagan-era America, the U.S. government poured massive amounts of money into finding a cure, sparking a battle among scientists for funding and power. Bested by rivals with competing drugs yet desperate to help, Candace went rogue, becoming a lynchpin in the black market for Peptide T.
After a scandalous departure from her tenured position at the NIH, Candace launched a series of private companies with Michael Ruff, her second husband and collaborator. Naïve to the world of business, she was manipulated by investors keen to wrest control of her discoveries. But Candace too became tainted, believing that her noble ends would justify devious means. Like a mythic hero, she succumbed to a fatal flaw, and her greatest strengths—singularity of purpose and blind faith in her own virtuosity—would prove to be her undoing.
Pamela Ryckman is a screenwriter, producer, and business executive with a focus on women in the workforce. She is the author of STILETTO NETWORK: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business (HarperCollins Leadership/Amacom, 2013), which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Ryckman is also a thought leader and speaker who consults on diversity to global corporations. With Shaquille O’Neal and Credit Suisse, Ryckman launched Momentum: Black Men’s Leadership Retreat, which convened 50 of the nation’s most high-powered African American men in 2015 to focus on job creation and economic empowerment in the Black community.
Additionally, Ryckman has written for The New York Times, Financial Times, and Washington Post, among other publications. She was the first to shed light on Belizean Grove, a secret society of the world’s most powerful women, and she co-authored CS Gender 3000, a Credit Suisse research report that debunked the “Queen Bee” myth for women. Ryckman is an investor in Operator Collective, a venture fund that supports women and minorities, and in Lucky Godot, a theatre development fund. She is also a board member of Page 73 Productions, which won a 2020 Obie Award for providing extraordinary support for early-career playwrights and counts among its alumni two Pulitzer Prize winners and a MacArthur Fellow.
From 2003 to 2009, Ryckman was on the board of The Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, which won a 2010 Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre. Early in her career, Ryckman held internal strategy roles at Merrill Lynch’s Global Markets and Investment Banking Group, and at Goldman Sachs & Co.’s Equities Financial and Strategic Management group. She earned her A.B. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and her M.A. in Journalism from NYU.
“I have admired Candace Pert and her work for many years…There is a revolution taking form that is significantly influencing how the Western medical community views health and disease. Candace Pert’s contribution to this revolution is undeniable.”—Deepak Chopra, MD, multi-bestselling author and founder of the Chopra Foundation
“Pamela Ryckman unearths a story of a brilliant female investigator, so that she might join scientific herstory. Ryckman’s writing is life-like, suspenseful, and creates a roller coaster ride of stakes and unexpected discovery. Hold on tight!”—Lisa Miller, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of The Spiritual Child and The Awakened Brain
“Candace Pert was a scientific maverick of heroic and tragic proportion. In gripping, moving prose, Pamela Ryckman pulls back the veil on the scientific establishment to reveal one woman’s struggle against subterfuge and sabotage — until Candace too succumbed to greed. If you are interested in mind-body medicine or just enjoy a good thriller, this book is for you!”—Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, author of How Emotions are Made and Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
“Candace Pert was an inspiring, passionate biochemist who became a black market smuggler and committed fraud in her quest to bring Peptide T to market and treat thousands of men infected with HIV. She was also the mother of integrative medicine before the world knew what it was. Pamela Ryckman unravels the secrets and mystery of this woman in a hunt for the truth. I could not put this book down!”—Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks, co-founder and chairwoman of Springboard Enterprises
"In this riveting biography, journalist Ryckman (Stiletto Network) chronicles the life and career of pharmacologist and neuroscientist Candace Pert. ... Ryckman’s nuanced portrait depicts Pert as a tragic figure so desperate for recognition and wealth that she was willing to break the law to get what she felt was her due. Readers will be engrossed."—Publisher's Weekly